**Jess you there buddy?**
I stilled. He stilled.
**Jesse please talk to me. You cant just ignore me. I will find you you know that.**
He had his comlink on. Not a stitch but he had his comlink on.
The resounding voice deflated him entirely. He stared at his ring like he didn’t know what it was, like he didn’t want to know what it was. But the tragedy was that he knew. Perfectly well.
I slid out of him painfully. Not like he noticed.
**Emma told me what happened. And… I’m sorry kid. I can only imagine how much I must have hurt you. I… I don’t remember much but… Jess please. Talk to me?**
Dragged myself out of bed. Dressed.
//Why the hell did he have his comlink on?//
**Everyone is so worried, Shalimar is going crazy on me. You know that woman’s gonna scratch my eyes out if you don’t come home soon. Man you didn’t even wait for me to wake up that’s no fair.**
Jesse didn’t move an inch, his hands still where I’d held them. Legs spread open, my almost-release trickling out from his gaping hole. Head turned to the right where his ring was. Eyes… silent.
**Give me my chance to apologise will ya? And also to thank you for saving my ass. Again! How many times is it now?**
**I wish I could take back everything I did… and said kid, but I know that You know I would never ever hurt you intentionally.**
**Man how could I? You’re my best friend Jess, you’re my little brother… and I Love you. You know that don’t you?**
Jesse slowly began to curl up again, on his side… left fist to his mouth to muffle the escaping sobs… green eyes fixated at the ring through which Brennan spoke to his heart. He loved him… like a brother… like a friend… but it wasn’t enough was it?
I leaned by the doorway to calm myself down, suppress the pain in my heart I yearned to become immune to like everything else. Perfect timing this guy had. Fucking bastard.
**Jesse I know you can hear me, please don’t be like this. You can't keep running.**
The bastard Jesse loved.
The bastard who probably just ruined my second chance at life.
**okay I uhh… I’ll catch you when you get back okay? Come on Jess now don’t be a wuss… I promise I won't beat on you again. Come back please.**
And the air went dead.
Jesse broke. Like he hadn’t broken before. And I was not the one to put him back together this time round.
Besides, I was broken too.
I grabbed my gear and fled the cabin to hide in the forest, knowing I was the last person Jesse wanted to see right now. My presence would only cause him more pain and confusion and he had enough to sort out on his own without me dumping more guilt onto him. He had to go back and face Brennan, and not let a drug-induced mishap ruin his life forever. I stood in the way of that.
Typical. Seems I am always standing in the way of someone. Maybe I am a closet masochist who just loves to chase people who’re not and never will be interested in me. Maybe I just do it to myself… to reinforce the animalistic aspects of my life. I am a loner. I operate best alone and heartless in the cold wilderness… no strings attached. And that’s how I should remain all my life.
I hoped Jesse would be gone by evening.
At sunset, I decided to return and resume my initial plans for the day that had been ruined when Jesse showed up. Almost dreaded the thought of finding Jesse sitting at my door again, and thankfully he wasn’t. Opened the door, closed it behind me and smelt him.
He was still there.
I think my first instinct was that of rage. I wanted him out… did not want to see him again, did not wanna listen to his pathetic drabbles about love lost again… and I walked into the bedroom determined to let him know just that.
Like I said, he was still there… in exactly the same position that I’d left him in. Naked, curled up into a tight foetus on the bed, shivering from the biting cold… the fire had gone out long ago…
“Damn it Jesse!”
I rushed to his side, checked his pulse to see if he was okay. He was conscious, awake and staring still at the fucking ring. He’d been crying, and biting down on a fist that already had two broken fingers in it. Quickly I covered him with warm blankets and went to light up a strong fire. I poured a glass of water, came around to sit behind him and raised him into my lap. He struggled, didn’t like the change in environment and groaned like a child against me.
“Jess it's okay… it's okay…”
I held him and rocked him, until he simmered down and then gave him the water. That seemed to erase some of his disorientation a bit and he grew conscious of what was going on. He looked at up me… then he looked back at his ring.
I pulled him closer wrapped in all the sheets, all my anger from before wiped away in a single moment of brutal realization… that when it comes to love… once you start, you can never stop. I uncurled his wounded hand and he winced at the jolts of pain it caused. Gently I kissed his knuckles with teeth marks on them, suppressing a feral urge to lick them clean.
He rested himself against me and apologised again. I told him he didn’t need to, that nothing was his fault. None of it. I told him I was cool, we could always finish what we started some other time and gave him one of my rarest smiles. Mercifully he smiled back, the growing warmth bringing him back from his tryst with insanity. We sat like that for awhile, holding hands. And then he sighed.
“I should go back.”
“Like h-he said… I can't keep running.”
“Said a lot of other things that made sense Jesse. Must be a hell of a guy.”
He beamed at that, my Jesse.
“Nice to have friends and brothers like that don’t you think?”
He looked at me through tortured eyes. Life’s a bitch they said to me, and I agreed with dark eyes of my own.
“I was thinking…”
“Hey now you know better than to do that.”
He awarded me another half smile for my effort. Followed it up with a sigh.
“Why don’t I… you know maybe I… I could… can I… I mean…”
“You can't stay with me Jess.”
“I… I could be like you. I could go join them on missions whenever they need me to, the way you do? Like a… you know like a freelancer. No strings attached right?”
“No wonder Adam thinks I’m a bad influence, is that all you see me as? A fucking freelancer?”
“N-No, I just…”
I managed to alarm him with my sudden annoyance, and had to cuddle him closer to stop him from stammering an answer I did not need.
“Jesse, I’m old, I’m cynical and I really really hate all this psycho-babble bullshit. Damn me if I understand why you like talking to me of all people ‘cause frankly I never thought of myself as a man of words you know.”
“Yeah, beats me too.”
I ruffled his hair.
“Men like us can't afford to ignore our calling. You know there is a war coming.”
He lowered his eyes, in reluctant agreement.
“And it would help to have someone like Brennan watching your back.”
Before he could protest, I clarified.
“For my sake. It would help Me feel… better. You know what I mean.”
That sad smile again. Eyes reflected the guilt he felt inside for me. I hate myself for being the source of that particular emotion in him and, well… a number of other people.
Eventually he decided he’d had enough talk thank God, and I helped him to his feet. He insisted on taking a bath which I didn’t think was such a good idea for his ribs and ended up squabbling another fifteen minutes. I knew I’d miss the sound of his voice when he was gone. At some level, I suppose he knew too that he would never see me again, and was hanging back longer than practically necessary.
It was jet dark outside, even at six in the evening. He came out of the bath dressed in his own clothes, only cleaner, dripping hair slicked back sexily… lips set in a pout I found irresistible and hard to look at all at once. He began to close the distance between us.
“Where’s your car?”
“Just outside the forest, at the American border.”
I nodded approval, stood up and moved away. He didn’t like the way I was rushing him.
“Why can't I stay the night? It's… dark outside you know.”
“You’ll be home for dinner if you leave now.”
“No buts Jesse. Leave now.”
“Will… when will I see you again?”
“Can I come back over the weekend?”
“I’ll be gone by weekend.”
“Okay. You will let me know when you find your new place and I’ll come then.”
“What the hell do you mean no?”
“Jesse… we can't see each other again.”
“'Cause I say so.”
“…… that’s not good enough for me.”
“Is for me. Go on get out of here.”
“You… you said that we… we would finish what we started.”
“I lied, to get you out of bed.”
“And what a great liar you are. You'd also lied to get me there in the first place remember?”
I could not answer that. He was angry… eyes accusing me of gross betrayal, silently pleading with me to take back the cruel words and make this all right. But I couldn’t.
How could I tell him I couldn’t see him again because seeing him now was no different from seeing Scott… painful… torturous… agonising? How could I tell him that he had become the very thing I had been hiding from up here in the jungles all this time… that I’d fallen in love with him?
//But it wasn’t enough was it…//
I knew Jesse was hurting. I knew he was torn between returning to the only family he’d ever known and a second-best choice that would mercifully keep him away from… Brennan. I planned to solve his dilemna by eliminating the second option altogether.
I walked up to and leaned against the bedroom door, arms crossed against my chest and stared at the unmade bed with its disarrayed sheets. The picture of Jesse sleeping between them burnt so deep in my memory it would ache for a long long time to come. I felt him closing in behind me and felt my heart catching in my throat. One hesitant hand reached out and touched, then gripped my shoulder. In that instant, I could have so easily given in to the lover in me, turned around and taken Jesse in my arms, swearing never to let him go.
Instead I gave in to the wolf.
I struck out… adamantium blades ripped out of white knuckles in a swift rush of raw emotion, burying themselves stiffly in the wooden frame opposite… barricading him out. I also managed to forcefully jerk his hand off in the process. Jesse took a step back, obviously stunned. I hung my head low.
The salt was back.
Jesse backed up, not turning away from me until he reached the door. His tears burned holes in my back and I fought to restrain mine. Felt wrong abandoning him when he was so lost already, but I had to. For his sake… and mine. I survived Scott. I wasn’t sure I could survive Jesse.
A gush of cold wind blew in, and I closed my eyes… waited for Jesse to slam the door on me one last time. I cringed.
“Does it hurt?”
His voice, soft and wet and hoarse… he was standing at the open door, taking me in one last time. I couldn’t help but gasp, as the distant memory of Marie whispering those very words droned my senses. I turned to look at Jesse… his sea green eyes… and answered the question that he was really asking.
He walked out and the door slid shut with a soft click.